Care and Treatment of
Scalp Fungus


Overview

Known by many names, scalp fungus is also known as ringworm, tinea capitis, tinea kerion and tinea tonsurans. This type of fungal infection tends to affect the skin of the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes; infecting hair shafts and follicles.

Although it is called ringworm, it is not caused by a worm, but instead a fungus that causes round rings on your scalp (and other body parts). Scalp fungus is on the increase globally. The fungus itself is referred to as a dermatophyte.

Causes

The plain truth is that we all carry various different micro-organisms on our bodies and that includes mold-like and yeast-like fungi. Some of these unseen hitch hikers are good for our body’s system. Others however, harm more than help. If any of the micro-organisms get out of control, they make your warm and moist body their home; a very unappealing mental picture.

A scalp fungal infection is extremely contagious and has a tendency to recur. It is transmitted by direct physical contact with someone who is infected by using their brush or comb or from wearing their clothing or headgear. It loves the scalp because it is warm and moist and once it is established there, it flourishes. Unfortunately, ringworm lives for several months on items it has come into contact with, so if you know someone with ringworm or scalp fungus, do not use anything they have touched.

And, you might not know this, but there are some fungal infections you can get from pets. For instance: ringworm may be transmitted from horses to people, and dogs and cats to people. If your pet has a bald patch, this may be ringworm infection.

Just back from a workout? Make sure to wash your hair and get the sweat and other debris off your scalp. This is an open invitation for a scalp fungal infection to form, if you have been exposed to it.

Symptoms

Scalp fungal infections are sneaky, in that an itch you may have might be very mild. On the other hand, you may have no itch at all. This means you run the risk of having scalp fungus for a long time before you may realize there is a problem.

scalp fungus picture - ringworm example - 400px x 301pxPatient with a scalp fungus which is referred to as a Kerion, which indicates the presence of fluid and pustules.

If left untreated, and the fungus progresses, you may see scalp lesions that are scaly and round. You many also have red and inflamed skin. The lesions may be filled with pus. If your scalp fungal infection gets that far, you typically get bald patches, where it looks like the hair was broken off at the shaft. There may be dark spots on your scalp and some swelling.

Diagnosis

When you get to your doctor’s office, they may only need to take a look at your skin, which is fine if the ringworm has not progressed too far. However, if it has not, to be 100% certain, they may also take sample of your skin or hair to examine under a microscope. They may also follow those tests with a Wood's Lamp, which uses a blue, ultraviolet light to see if you have ringworm. The Wood’s Lamp test is usually done at a dermatologist’s office in a dark room, which will show an affected area of skin as being different in color.

Treatment

In order to rid your scalp and body of fungus, you will need to see a doctor or try the natural treatment described below if your symptoms are mild. Typically you will be prescribed either the pill or liquid form of anti fungal medication, which you will need to take for 4-12 weeks. The doctor may also suggestion some forms of topical treatment. However, if they do not work, you will need oral anti fungal medications. Oral prescription medications are required since the fungus can reside deep into the scalp.

This infection is tough to get rid of the longer you have it, so don’t discontinue treatment just because things “look” and “feel” better. You may have just squashed the initial symptoms, but not rooted out the cause.

Your medications will usually come with a recommendation for an anti fungal shampoo. The shampoo on its own will “not” cure ringworm. You will need to use the shampoo in conjunction with your prescribed medications. Think you’ve been exposed to scalp fungus? Use an anti fungal shampoo for two weeks as a preventative measure and keep your scalp clean.

The ingredient in the anti fungal shampoos is typically selenium sulfide, which will also help to stop the spread of the fungus to other parts of your body. Anyone else in the house, including pets, who show signs of fungus, must be treated as well.

There are some new anti fungal medications on the market, such as ketoconazole, terbinafine, itraconazole and fluconazole. These may also be used as an alternative if your doctor feels they are appropriate. 

Natural Treatment Alternatives

Some people prefer to try natural scalp fungus remedies instead of relying on prescription medications.  There are several products available  including topicals and soaps that use plant extracts.  The manufacturer claims that it can cure a fungal infection in 4 to 7 days.

Prevention

There are several precautions you can take to avoid future scalp fungal infection problems:

  • Do not share brushes or other items that touch the hair
  • Shower after going for a haircut
  • Shampoo frequently
  • Keep the skin dry
  • Be careful around dogs and cats that appear to have a skin condition
  • Wash hands frequently

Brochures

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention